If you had asked wife and mother of two, Jessica Hay, at the beginning of the year if she would ever run a marathon, she would have said it was impossible.
When her weight skyrocketed to an all-time-high of 198 kg and the years of dieting didn’t produce long-term results, a morbidly obese Jessica demanded change, not only in her weight but, more importantly, in her lifestyle.
Now months later, Jessica is an official fisiocrem sponsored ‘athlete’ and is using her personal struggle towards a healthier lifestyle to ignite a positive fitness movement among the running community.
“In a world that is jumping on board with body positivity and ‘real sized’ people I’m thrilled to be seen as an athlete, and to be sponsored by a company as highly regarded as fisiocrem is a huge confidence boost”, says Jessica.
For Melbourne-based Jessica, life wasn’t always a battle against obesity.
She was a very active teenager who excelled at many sports - State level Basketball, Netball, Tennis, you name it! But after high school came more study, travel, life and children; the weight piled on.
After many years of yo-yo dieting and her weight always returning, Jessica needed a new game plan. Something serious had to change this time.
Hay wanted a realistic goal that she could start working away at and feel like she was making progress (versus feeling deflated on a failing weight loss journey).
Starting out, she admitted wasn't without a struggle. The physical toll of being overweight had 'stripped her of her dignity' - even putting her shoes on was something her husband to help her with.
Fast forward to 2017 when she shifted her goal from counting kilograms to counting kilometres. Jessica’s ultimate goal is to complete a marathon - losing weight through the journey is purely a bonus.
“I wanted to set a goal that wasn’t necessarily weight loss orientated, because that clearly hadn’t worked for me in the past. I wanted to work on my fitness and if I lose weight along the way, then that’s an added bonus”, says Jessica.
Beginning with Parkrun in January, for months prior, Jessica didn’t tell anyone she had signed up in case she backed out or left the course before finishing the full 5km. She then worked up the courage to announce her intentions via Instagram.
“When I mentioned on Instagram that I wanted to try it, I was embraced by runners from all over the world, and I was met with such encouragement”, she says.
“From that moment on, I knew within myself that I could do this”.
At the first Parkrun, runners passed her less than half a mile into the first of three laps and she considered giving up. But when two of them circled back to join her during her second lap in support, their words of encouragement helped her to push through the rest of the way.
“I was in horrendous pain, but I was so unbelievably proud of myself. I knew continuing to do Parkrun would help me mentally and physically”, she says.
The next week, Hay beat her time by five minutes and was further along in the course before people began to pass her.
Jessica has now completed 22 Parkruns, completed the ‘For Fitness Sake’ challenge in which she completed 50kms in 10 days, she completed 10kms at Run Melbourne earlier in the year and that’s just the beginning.
Jessica admits her marathon journey is going to be long one, with the full marathon many years away, but she is confident she will get there with continued hard work and dedication.
“Yes it’s hard, it most certainly hurts but I would rather be in pain from trying to be active than be in pain from just sitting around feeling sorry for myself”, she says.
Juggling motherhood, marathon training and her weight struggles hasn’t been the easiest of tasks for Hay, but she is adamant not to make excuses anymore.
“For too long I was using my kids as an excuse that I didn’t have time to go out and be active but now I schedule the time, otherwise I won’t be here at all”, she says.
“I'm proud that my children will get to witness Mummy achieving a goal she worked so hard for”.
Now Hay has her sights set on one big goal: to complete a full marathon. Slow, sustainable change, supported by her doctor, she said is the main aim of her new way of life.
By continuing to take on moderate challenges within her ability level, Jessica’s building her running stamina and improving her pace. She recently took on the role of ambassador and runner at this year’s Father’s Day Fun Run in Melbourne.
Although weight loss is a massive part of her journey, Jessica still manages to put all of her energy into her lifestyle choices and marathon training, unable to answer the much asked question of “How much weight have you lost”?
“I honestly don't know. I made the decision in January to ditch the scales because I was obsessed with weight and needed to focus on running and setting a positive example for others”, she says.
“I'm still morbidly obese and I still have a long road ahead. All I do know is whatever I'm doing, something is working”.
So what advice does Jessica have for those wanting to get out there and run but are too scared to? Just try, and keep trying!
“My advice is to ignore that one person that may give you a horrible look in public because believe me, you’re being watched silently by many others and they admire your bravery”, she says.
“They admire that you’re doing something to better your health - your dedication to not give up is what triggers the thought, “if they can do it. I can do it”.